While the Languedoc-Roussillon French wine region is one of the most famous and recognizable in the entire world, many wine enthusiasts are unaware of the differences between the two areas.
The wines of Roussillon have a rich history that is completely different from its northerly neighbor of Languedoc. There are a handful of subregions within Roussillon that are most important in terms of wine production today, and each has its own unique wine style.
Blends reign supreme in this French wine region, with a short list of key wine grapes being most important for mixing.
Exploring the Wines of Roussillon
Roussillon Wine Regions
The Languedoc-Roussillon region covers an espancie area of southern France, and Roussillon covers the Southern portion.
Within Roussillon, there are a handful of different wine regions and designations that cover the majority of wine produced there today.
Côtes du Roussillon
The Côtes du Roussillon designation is a catchall term that covers wine produced across the entire Roussillon region.
It is one of the most popular wine designations in the entire Languedoc-Roussillon area, and covers everything from red and white to rose wines.
The vast majority of Côtes du Roussillon wines are blends, with the three most popular red wine grapes for blending being Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
These three wine grapes are either mixed together or combined with less known southern French wine grapes for balanced blends.
White wines within this designation are also primarily blends, with Grenache Blanc and Macabeu being the two prominent white wine grapes.
The blends in this region are both balanced and full of flavour, and offer incredible value for budget conscious wine enthusiasts.
Domaine Lafage Côtes du Roussillon ‘Tessellae’ Old Vines Rouge is one of the most popular wines carrying the Côtes du Roussillon designation.
It is composed of the area’s three main wine grapes Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and offers incredible flavour and balance.
Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Often confused with Côtes du Roussillon, the Côtes du Roussillon Villages designation covers only dry red wines that are regarded as higher in quality compared to those produced under the larger Côtes du Roussillon designation.
The geographical area where Côtes du Roussillon Villages wine is produced is located in the northern portion of Roussillon near the border with Languedoc.
There are four specific villages in the area that are allowed to label their wines as “Côtes du Roussillon Villages.” Caramany, Latour de France, Lesquerde, and Tautavel are the four villages that produce these high quality red wines.
Domaine du Clos des Fees Cotes du Roussillon Village La Petite Siberie is one of the most famous bottles of this designation, costing over $200 each.
The Banyuls wine region is located in the southernmost corner of Roussillon, not far from the border with the country of Spain.
The wines produced here are both sweet and unique, and are usually served as either aperitifs or after dinner dessert wines.
Three different variations of the Grenache grape make up the foundation of the Banyuls blend, with Grenache Noir making up at least half of all blends by law.
The rest of these popular red wine blends consist of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc.
The Banyuls region is technically a commune within the Collioure appellation, though it has gained enough acclaim and recognition worldwide to become just as recognisable as the appellation it is located within.
Terres des Templiers Banyuls Grand Cru Mas de la Serra Demi Sec is an extremely popular sweet wine that has gained traction abroad as well as locally. It is a quintessential blend of the Grenache grape varietals that the area has become so famous for.
The Collioure appellation contains four different appellations, all of which besides Banyuls produce affordable wines that are both simple and dry.
The Grenache grape is extremely popular, and is included in nearly all of the local blends.
While the area is primarily known for making straightforward red and rose wines, recent changes to local wine laws allow for white wines as well.
Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris make up the lion’s share of white wine production in the Collioure region.
Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Collioure ‘Chrysopée’ Blanc is a fantastic example of a high quality dry white wine from the Collioure appellation.
It has been awarded multiple 90 point scores by wine critics, and represents a great value at around $40 per bottle.
Roussillon Wine Grapes
The majority of wines produced in Roussillon are blends, and there are three key grape varietals that are used in nearly every style.
When all three are used together, the combination of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes are referred to as the “Southern Rhône Red Blend”.
Grenache is the single most important grape in the Roussillon area, and is used in a large variety of both red and white wine blends.
There are three different variations of the Grenache grape that are particularly important to the Roussillon area.
Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris, and Grenache Blanc are used to make many different styles of wine throughout Roussillon.
Grenache Noir is primarily used in red wine production, while Grenache Gris is used to make rose, and Grenache Blanc is used to make white wine.
Les Vignerons de Maury ‘Maury 1928 Solera’ is a classic representation of a single varietal red wine using the Grenache grape from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
This classic winemaker works to preserve its deep history by selling wines from individual cask numbers.
While New World wine producing countries like Australia and the United States have embraced the dark skinned French Syrah grape, it is still most prevalent in France.
This bold and strong red wine grape is essential for adding depth of flavour to Roussillon’s many blends.
While the Southern Rhône Red Blend is most prevalent in the region, other blends like the simple mix of Grenache and Syrah have become increasingly popular across Roussillon.
The grape produces wine that is high in tannin and often referred to as having a “peppery” flavour.
Domaine Lafage Côtes du Roussillon Fundacio is one of the most successful and well known representations of the Grenache – Syrah blend from Roussillon.
The two grapes work in tandem to achieve an affordable red wine that is both juicy and full of depth and layers of flavour.
The Mourvèdre wine grape is almost always used in red wine blends, and is rarely used to make single varietal bottles of wine. While the grape originated in France, it is most prevalent today in the country of Spain.
Roussilion’s southern location near the Spanish border makes it an ideal region for the production of Mourvèdre, as it thrives in this moderately warm climate.
These small berries lead to a high concentration of tannins, making Mourvèdre a perfect compliment to Grenache.
Domaine Lafage Côtes du Roussillon Miraflors Rosé is a unique and refreshing blend of the Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes that is one of the most popular roses in all of southern France.
At around $20 per bottle, it is one of the best Roussillon wines for summer parties.
While the Languedoc region is distinctly French in terms of both culture and history, the Roussillon region shows many signs of Spanish culture.
While Languedoc came under French rule in the 13th century, Roussillon was under Spanish rule until 1659.
The 19th century saw the expansion of the French railway system to this southern region, leading to a dramatic boom in expansion for the area’s wine industry.
The railway provided quick and efficient exportation of the area’s wine grapes and a period of large growth soon followed
The Spanish influence is apparent throughout the region, and travelers who pay attention will notice the Spanish influence on the area’s culture including music, art, clothing, wine, and much more.
While the two regions are often referred to interchangeably, they are decidedly different.
The Languedoc region is located directly north of Roussillon, and while the two regions have very different histories and cultures, they are often referenced together.
Languedoc produces similar wines as Roussillon, and the climates in the two areas are extremely similar.
Languedoc and Roussillon both produce a large volume of affordable everyday wines, and the regions are often referred to as one entity.
Rare wine grapes like Clairette are only available in Languedoc, while Roussillon grows many wine grapes that are mainly associated with Spain.
Gerard Bertrand Languedoc ‘Cote des Roses’ Rosé is an extremely popular wine from Languedoc that is one of the best representations of Rose from southern France.
It has won multiple awards across a variety of different international wine competitions.
Wines of Roussillon – Conclusion
Roussillon is one of the most important wine regions in all of southern France, and the Spanish history and influence in the region are apparent in the wines today.
There are four wine regions in Roussillon that are of particular importance, and everything from sweet wines to dry wines of all varieties are produced here.
There are three wine grapes that are most important to this region, and nearly all of them are used to make the region’s many blends.